The Slow-Cooked Sentence

In early morning’s sooty light, birdsong blessed the day

Rachael Conlin Levy

A 1771 diagram of the orbits of the sun, moon, Earth, and Jupiter. Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica.

I write in the margins of my existence, when home and its beloved inhabitants are silent, slumbering. I ponder the snake-charm sibilance of the words just written. Ssssilent. Sssslumber. In 5 a.m.’s warm, sooty light, I waken to the sound of a robin. The birdsong is a clear whistle, a burst of noise that reminds me of time long past, when mornings began with waiting for the arrival of the sun, for the arrival of my sons, twin little boys I’d name for all that was holy and great.

Eighteen years have passed since sleep and sons eluded me, enough lifetime for babies to grow into smart, strong men now living in the liminal space between the end of high school, childhood, and family and the beginning of college, adulthood, and independence. The air hums with uncertainty, molecules vibrating with anticipation. Jittery, I breathe in, hold to the count of five, then release. Together we wait for the future to reveal itself.

In the eye doctor’s office, I’d been instructed to stare into a small screen and note the flashes of light that the clinician promised would explode at vision’s edge, a useful analogy for the eye-glass wearing writer struggling with creation, and for the mother contemplating the disruption to the orbit of self and sons.

Peripheral time is the exterior shell, now cracking.

It’s the border, extending.

It’s the envelope that delivers each new day.

Awakened by the robin’s call, I open heavy eyes, weepy from lack of rest, and listen to the bird repeat its advice: cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up. The bedroom is stuffy; the rest of the house not much cooler. Knowing there was no point in trying to fall back to sleep, I make coffee and take it to the stoop. The concrete’s cold against my bare feet; the mug of coffee warms my hand. Robins call to each other from house peak and tree top, their songs ringing like church bells.



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